A Social, Colorful Lobby Invites Students and Hotel Guests to Mingle in Amsterdam
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A Social, Colorful Lobby Invites Students and Hotel Guests to Mingle in Amsterdam

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By Alia Akkam
Hotel Casa, which debuted in the 1950s, emerges as an all-day fashionable hangout in Amsterdam East.

In the late 1950s, four entrepreneurial students, armed with just 100 Dutch guilders (around $50), dreamed up the Casa Academica Foundation. It was intended to be a clever real estate solution to Amsterdam’s student housing shortage at the time. During the school year this new structure, which opened in Amsterdam East in 1962, would function as a much-needed dormitory; in the summer months all the rooms with empty beds would transform into a no-frills, money-making hotel. Now, with an overhaul by Amsterdam design studio Ninetynine, Hotel Casa is as much a community hub as it is a convenient choice for low-key accommodations.

The reception desk, set against a backdrop of natural oak, creates a whimsical tone upon entry.

The reception desk, set against a backdrop of natural oak, creates a whimsical tone upon entry.

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Through the decades there were numerous changes for the hotel: floors segregated by gender eventually gave way to co-ed options, there was a significant renovation in 1980, and in 2010 it moved to a new location a few blocks away from the original. The rooms were also upgraded with more hotel amenities like flat screen televisions and large desks. Ninetynine didn’t alter any of the 519 spacious guest rooms nor the rooftop beer garden Hopp, but instead turned the lobby into a bustling destination its own right last spring, with disparate spaces that organically blur into one another.

An aerial view of the lobby, awash in natural light from the floor-to-ceiling windows.

An aerial view of the lobby, awash in natural light from the floor-to-ceiling windows.

 "The biggest challenge was to make it attractive to a wide audience without being generic," says Jeroen Vester, Ninetynine’s founder and creative director. "There is a strongly young at heart, forever young vibe and we really wanted this to be experienced throughout."

In the mornings, guests often pick up a coffee and take it to the communal table, which sits underneath &tradition Flowerpot VP2 pendants.

In the mornings, guests often pick up a coffee and take it to the communal table, which sits underneath &tradition Flowerpot VP2 pendants.

For example, beyond the study-friendly lobby and living area is the versatile EAST, a café, restaurant, and bar that is the heart of socializing. One end, close to reception, is devoted to the coffee shop, yet as the bar traverses the restaurant, the other end effortlessly morphs into a spot for sipping, say, Moscow Mules.

EAST's green palette delightfully contrasts with punches of bright orange.  Dille & Kamille Stoel 14 chairs add old-fashioned charm.

EAST's green palette delightfully contrasts with punches of bright orange.  Dille & Kamille Stoel 14 chairs add old-fashioned charm.

Cozy corners abound in the lobby, like this one at EAST starring a pair of sculptural Havana lounge chairs by Softline.

Cozy corners abound in the lobby, like this one at EAST starring a pair of sculptural Havana lounge chairs by Softline.

Demarcated by custom perforated steel plates, the mezzanine connects the ground and first-floor levels, extending the lobby upstairs. Here, one finds contemporary meeting facilities and breakout zones with features like neutral chairs that pop with seat cushions in saturated hues. A 131-foot-long grid wall tinted nude is the visual focal point. Crafted from sound-absorbing wood cement boards, a material commonly found in student housing, it’s one of the ways that Ninetynine nods to Hotel Casa's heritage.

Greenery enlivens the banquette-lined dining area.

Greenery enlivens the banquette-lined dining area.

Underneath &tradition Passepartout JH10 ceiling lamps, there is an opportunity to dine with friends and strangers alike at EAST.

Underneath &tradition Passepartout JH10 ceiling lamps, there is an opportunity to dine with friends and strangers alike at EAST.

Another is the playful arrangement of furniture, the lobby’s motley vignettes of chairs, sofas, stools, and tables. "It’s an analogy for communal housing," Vester points out. "Someone brings a chair, another brings a cupboard and there is an eclectic setting that somehow works together and exists because of coincidence. We wanted to mix all these different looks."

A 131-foot-long grid wall fashioned from wood  cement boards nods to traditional dormitory architecture.

A 131-foot-long grid wall fashioned from wood cement boards nods to traditional dormitory architecture.

To create a cheerful atmosphere, the antithesis of bland dorm lobbies, Vester blended bright colors. Still, this complementary swirl of blue, yellow, and pink is grounded by earthy elements, like an abundance of plants, oak, and natural light streaming through the large windows. Although the plentiful sunshine was a boon, Vester says that it sparred with his goal of fostering coziness, yet another incentive for establishing the lobby’s various intimate nooks.

Tucked away behind custom perforated steel screens, the mezzanine is a retreat for meetings and quiet work spaces. 

Tucked away behind custom perforated steel screens, the mezzanine is a retreat for meetings and quiet work spaces. 

On the mezzanine, guests catch up on work and hold informal meetings in the company of Fest Amsterdam Sinclair chairs and &tradition Palette JH8 side tables.

On the mezzanine, guests catch up on work and hold informal meetings in the company of Fest Amsterdam Sinclair chairs and &tradition Palette JH8 side tables.

Given the assortment of Hotel Casa’s guests, flexibility was crucial to Ninetynine’s design. There needed to be a long table for stressed-out, on-deadline students to gather at with their laptops, just as low-slung coffee tables for leisurely novel-reading with a cappuccino were essential. 

With their graphics and pops of color, meeting rooms at Hotel Casa are as youthful and energetic as the lobby.

With their graphics and pops of color, meeting rooms at Hotel Casa are as youthful and energetic as the lobby.

"To make all areas as accessible as possible was the main brief from the hotel. This non-boundary design makes it intuitive and welcome everywhere, but clear enough that someone can say, ‘Maybe this space is not for me at this time,’’’ explains Vester. "In the high season there can be 300 people having breakfast downstairs, but in the low just 20 students at the bar. You choose your space depending on your mood."     

Related Reading: A Sculptural Brass House Glows Like a Jewel in Amsterdam

Project Credits:

Interior Design: Ninetynine 

Architect of Record: OZ Architecten       

Builder/General Contractor: Draisma

Structural Engineer: abt

Landscape Design: Copijn

Sound Engineer: Peutz

Other: Holmris B8

Other: Roord Binnenbouw